Here is the next installment of Landscape With Figures, the unpublished manuscript of my grandmother, Beatrice Allen Page:
“Came upon a woman sitting on a camp stool by the side of the road, easel set up in front of her, painting the harbor, which was bright blue today and tufted with little white sales. The picture was almost finished and it was clearly the work of a novice although the woman must have been in her sixties.
She had heard my approaching footsteps and as I was about to pass her, she looked up with a disarming smile and said, ‘It’s pretty awful, isn’t it? I’ve only been painting for about six months.’ And then she went right on to save me the embarrassment of an answer: ‘But I just love it. I see so much that I never saw before.’
Her enjoyment and friendliness were catching and we chatted for several minutes before I went on and left her to finish her picture.
I suppose I’ve always been a little scornful of the amateur artist who plays with his or her talent when he’s or she’s in the mood (I wish there were a pronounce that applied to both sexes) and knows nothing of the self-discipline, the hard work, the ‘agony and the ecstasy’ of the professional.
However, when I think of that woman painting her ‘pretty awful’ picture with such zest, I realize I have undervalued the amateur. As the word conveys, and as she remarked, she ‘loved’ what she was doing. Years ago I read somewhere, or perhaps someone said it to me, a sentence that comes back to me now: Whatever is done with love endures.
That woman’s painting will obviously not endure as art but I have a feeling the act of painting it may endure in some indirect way. It is developing her perceptiveness, increasing her joie de vivre. That joy within herself may spill over onto others – some of it spilled onto me. As a result, later in the day when a man beat me to the one available space in a parking lot over in town which he could clearly see I was aiming for, instead of scowling at him, I smiled affably. He in turn, as a result of my amiability, may have behaved more sympathetically toward the employee he had perhaps meant to bawl out, who in turn my have gone home after work and patched up a quarrel with his wife. And so on and so on. Granted I’m being a little fanciful; who is to say that the joy of one human being in painting a picture, no matter how bad, is not a contribution to other lives?”